A Chinese folk story turned into a great epic, this tale is also known as Outlaws of the Marsh and By the Water Margin. In Chinese, it is called Shui Hu or Shui Hu Zhuan.

A Chinese version of the popular English folk story Robin Hood, the story of how virtuous, law-abiding citizens were all pushed into banditry by a tyrannical magistrate called Gao Qiu. The story spreads across 120 chapters, as more and more people join the cause of the bandits, who have taken refuge in the marshy wilderness. These people all become great heroes, struggling against the evil tyrant until they finally prevail after a long struggle.

The storytelling is exquisite. Each bandit has his own special characteristics and personality, and there are over 100 of them in total. The leader of the group, a former army officer named Lin Chung, has his character develop from a quiet citizen to that of a loved folk hero.

It is a popular story because of its easily understood storyline, unlike the much more complex Romance of the Three Kingdoms. This epic has its share of plots and counter-plots, but it is still an excellent read. I read it when I was 8 and I've read it twice over. Full of great storytelling and Chinese philosophy, this is no doubt one of the best pieces of Chinese literature available.

As a sidenote, here is my own list of highly recommended Chinese classic epics:

These are readily available in English as well as Chinese. Go read them. It's great stuff.